What Is Angina?
There’s a lot you can do to stop it from happening. Usually, medicine along with lifestyle changes can control angina. If it’s more severe, you may need surgery, too. Or you may need a stent, a tiny tube that props open arteries.
The chest pain you feel with angina happens because there isn’t enough bloodflowing to part of your heart. It’s a symptom of heart disease, and it’s caused when something blocks the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
Angina usually goes away quickly, but it can be a symptom of a life-threatening heart problem. Call your doctor if you have angina. It’s important to find out what’s going on and to talk about what you can do to avoid a heart attack in the future.
There are different types of angina:
Stable angina is the most common. Physical activity or stress can trigger it. It usually lasts a few minutes, and it goes away when you rest. It isn’t a heart attack, but it’s a sign that you’re more likely to have one in the future. Tell your doctor if this happens to you.
Unstable angina. It happens while you’re at rest or not very active. The pain can be strong and long lasting, and can come back again and again. It can be a signal that you’re about to have a heart attack, so see a doctor right away.
Prinzmetal’s angina (also called variant angina) is rare. It might happen at night during sleep or while at rest. The heart arteries suddenly tighten or narrow. It can cause a lot of pain, and you should get it treated.
Angina is usually caused by heart disease. A fatty substance called plaque builds up in the arteries, blocking blood flow to the heart muscle. This forces the heart to work with less oxygen, and that causes pain. You may also have blood clots in the arteries of your heart, which can cause heart attacks.
Other less common causes of chest pain include:
Chest pain is the symptom, but it affects people differently. You may feel:
You are likely to have pain behind your breastbone, but it can spread to your shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back.
It’s possible to mistake an aching or burning for heartburn or gas.
One study found women were more likely to use the words “pressing” or “crushing” to describe the feeling.
Stable angina often gets better with rest. Unstable angina may not — and could get worse.
Getting a Diagnosis
If you’ve been having chest pain, it’s important to see your doctor, even if it goes away.
Your doctor will want to know:
Your doctor may recommend these tests:
Angina, also called angina pectoris, can be a recurring problem or a sudden, acute health concern.
Angina is relatively common but can be hard to distinguish from other types of chest pain, such as the pain or discomfort of indigestion. If you have unexplained chest pain, seek medical attention right away.
Angina is chest pain that occurs when the blood supply to the muscles of the heart is restricted. It usually happens because the arteries supplying the heart become hardened and narrowed.
The pain and discomfort of angina feels like a dull, heavy or tight pain in the chest that can sometimes spread to the left arm, neck, jaw or back.
The pain is usually triggered by physical activity or stress and typically only lasts for a few minutes. This is often referred to as an angina attack.
Read more about the symptoms of angina.
Dial 999 to request an ambulance if you experience chest pain and you haven’t previously been diagnosed with a heart problem.
If you have an angina attack and you’ve previously been diagnosed with the condition, take the medication prescribed for you (glyceryl trinitrate). A second dose can be taken after five minutes if the first dose doesn’t have any effect. If there’s no improvement five minutes after the second dose, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
The two main types of angina are stable angina and unstable angina.
Some people develop unstable angina after previously having stable angina, while others experience unstable angina with no history of having angina before.
Unstable angina should be regarded as a medical emergency, because it’s a sign that the function of your heart has suddenly and rapidly deteriorated, increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Read more about diagnosing angina.
Most cases of angina are caused by atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of arteries as a result of a build-up of fatty substances known as plaques. This can restrict the blood supply to the heart and trigger the symptoms of angina.
Advanced age, smoking, obesity and eating a diet high in saturated fats all increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Read more about the causes of angina.